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May 11 - with all my heart

Fr. Michael MachacekNativity of Our LordMay 11, 2023
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today's readings are Acts 15: 7-21; Psalm 96 and John 15: 9-11

Dear reader - the following is a reprint of what I shared on this day in 2020, with a few small changes.  In many ways this is the most heart felt reflection I have ever written:.

Grateful.  Thankful.  Blessed.  This is how I feel today. 

On this day in 1991, at St. Michael’s Cathedral, 9 of us were ordained to serve as priests for the Archdiocese of Toronto by Aloysius Cardinal Ambrozic. The day was a blur – the joy of the ordination mass in the morning, the gathering at my parents’ house with lots of relatives in the afternoon, and later a reception in the hall of Transfiguration Church here in Etobicoke, the parish where I grew up.

But the reality of the priesthood truly began on Canada Day of that year when I started my first assignment as Associate Pastor here at Nativity.  That is when I realized how little I knew, and how I leaned upon the wisdom of Fr. Reg Whelan in those first years. 

The call to serve as a priest is unique to each person.  I still shake my head and chuckle at the idea that God called me, of all people.  One dear friend of mine says that my call to be a priest is proof of God’s sense of humour.  And I agree with him. 

I have never forgotten a piece of wisdom shared with me a month before my ordination by Sr. Mary Lou Cranston, CND, who was a professor at St. Augustine’s Seminary.  She took me aside one day and said, “Michael, you need to promise me that you will never forget that you were called from the People to serve God’s People”.  I smile at that memory.  And I would like to think that I have never, ever forgotten that truth. 

This is why I can identify with the reaction of Barnabas and Paul in this past Monday’s 1st Reading (Acts 14: 5-18) when they realize the people of Lystra think that they are the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes, to whom they wish to offer sacrifice.  The two of them rush into the crowds and shout, “Friends, why are you doing this?  We are mortals just like you …”

Just like you, I am a mortal, dear reader.  For the first 32 years of my life, I was a layperson just like you.  Like you I have my gifts and talents, my strengths and my weaknesses, my successes and failures, my joys and sorrows, and my holiness and sinfulness.

This vocation that God has entrusted me with is one of great responsibility. God is now calling me to serve God’s people in this little corner of Etobicoke.  The responsibility at times is overwhelming, but with your support, your constant prayers and with the support of the staff and volunteers in our parish so many good things are happening here at Nativity.  For this I say thank you – to all of you, and most importantly, to God.  For to God goes all the glory.  

This is a life of privilege.  Not privilege in terms of personal comforts, but privilege in terms of what being a priest entails.  The joys of celebrating the sacraments of the church with you.  The incredible trust of so many who have shared their burdens, struggles and sorrows with me.  The privilege of being able to share in the best moments of your lives such as baptisms and weddings; and sharing in the hardest moments of your lives such as when you are sick or dying, or when the Lord calls you home.  And all the countless fascinating moments in between.  All that I have learned from you, all that you have shared with me. That has been a privilege.

Today, I say thank you – to almighty God, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I also say thank you to Holy Mother Church.  Finally, I say thank you to my family, my friends and you my dear parishioners.  Thank you for being here and being here for me. 

Today, I smile with gratitude, thankfulness, and blessing.  Yes, God has been very good to me.  I can only pray that with whatever more years God blesses me with, I in turn will continue to be good to God and to God’s People.    

As always, peace and prayers,

Fr. Michael Machacek